Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Web Secret #251: Drowning in e-Mail

Are you submerged in e-mail?

Most of us are.

So two really smart people, TED Curator Chris Anderson and TED Scribe Jane Wulf decided to do something about it. They created the Email Charter, a set of rules to make e-mail more manageable. They encourage spreading the word, so here is the charter, pretty much word for word:

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

1. Respect Recipients' Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

2. Short or Slow is not Rude
Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!

3. Celebrate Clarity
Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.

4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by "Thoughts?". Even well-intended-but-open questions like "How can I help?" may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. "Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!"

5. Slash Surplus cc's
cc's are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don't default to 'Reply All'. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

6. Tighten the Thread
Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what's not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

7. Attack Attachments
Don't use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there's something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.

8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR
If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with "No need to respond" or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.

9. Cut Contentless Responses
You don't need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying "Thanks for your note. I'm in." does not need you to reply "Great." That just cost someone another 30 seconds.

10. Disconnect!
If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can't go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an 'auto-response' that references this charter. And don't forget to smell the roses.

Roger that.

Your turn to spread the rules.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Web Secret #250: Facebook Privacy

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I think it's fun for personal use, fantastic for certain kins of retail establishments, and almost always, a terrible idea for therapists, hospitals, and treatment facilities.

Here's why. Some years ago, I was hired by a psychiatric hospital to develop their social media strategy. Like many clients, they asked "Should we have a Facebook?". As always, I said, That's a terrible idea.

They ignored me.

Within days of starting their Facebook, former psychiatric patients started posting comments on their wall. You can just imagine.

They hastily shut it down.

Too late - they had opened up Pandora's Box. The patients had the idea to start a new Facebook page, aptly called "Former patients of the xxxx Hospital" (name omitted to protect the innocents.) You can just imagine.

So if you can't control your desire to be on Facebook, at least learn how to stay private. A recent New York Times article did just that.

Here is a summary of author Somini Sengupta's concerns and suggestions:
  • Your Facebook can be examined by police officers, patients and clients.
  • Facebook’s new search tool can allow strangers, along with your "friends" on Facebook, to discover who you are, what you like and where you go.
  • Facebook insists it is up to you to decide how much you want others to see. And that is true, to some extent. But you cannot entirely opt out of Facebook searches.
Answer these questions to protect yourself:

QUESTION 1 How would you like to be found?

Go to "who can see my stuff" on the upper right side of your Facebook page. Click on “see more settings.” By default, search engines can link to your timeline. You can turn that off if you wish.

Go to "activity log." Here you can review all your posts, pictures, “likes” and status updates. If you are concerned about who can see what, look at the original privacy setting of the original post - decide whether you would like to be associated with them.

QUESTION 2 What do you want the world to know about you?

Go to your profile page and click "About me." Decide if you would like your gender, or the name of your spouse, to be visible on your timeline. Think about whether you want your birthday to be seen on your timeline.

QUESTION 3 Do you mind being tracked by advertisers?

Facebook has eyes across the Web; one study found that its so-called widget — the innocuous blue letter “f” — is integrated into 20 percent of the 10,000 most popular Web sites. If that is annoying, several tools can help you block trackers. Think about using a service like Abine. Once installed, their DoNotTrackMe utility can block thousands of companies and social networks from tracking your interests online.

QUESTION 4 Whom do you want to befriend?

Now is the time to review whom you count among your Facebook friends. Your boss? Do you really want her to see pictures of you in Las Vegas? And the woman you met in Lamaze class: do you want the apps she has installed to know who you are? Think about using a company like, which instantly checks your privacy settings across Facebook, Google and the other websites and companies collecting your data.

Not everyone is your friend.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Web Secret #249: Amped Wireless

I live in a loft apartment located within a building that used to be an electrical factory in the 1920s. The walls are concrete - I have never heard my neighbors.

When all five of our family reunite, we wirelessly operate 5 Mac laptops, 5 iPhones, and 4 iPads. We need wifi, strong wifi.

Enter Amped Wireless, a company that sells high power wifi range extenders extending a wifi network up to 10,000 feet. Now these are not expensive devices. I purchased my Amped Wireless High Power Wireless-N Smart Repeater and Range Extender (SR150) for about $67.00.

When I went to initially install it, I just couldn't get it to work. I figured I was f***ed and would be spending the next four hours trying to get the device to work. With zero faith in getting any help, I called Amped's tech support, already impressed that they even supplied a phone number.

Goodness - a human came on the line and spoke to me, spending 30 minutes until I was completely set up. That was easy!

All was fine until my FIOS Internet completely crashed. It also knocked out the Repeater. Once again I called tech support at Amped and they patiently walked me through until everything worked for a second time.

Thank you Amped.

You're a company that provides excellent customer service.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Web Secret #248: Deleting Old Accounts

I just came across a great website, The purpose of Encrypt is to "use mass education and promotion of encryption, privacy tools, and copyleft licensing as a means of promoting digital sovereignty."

Encrypt wisely points out that:
"one of the most easily overlooked steps towards defending your digital privacy is preventing old skeletons from your past being unearthed. Most internet users have had many different eMail addresses over the years, and have abandoned accounts on facebook, livejournal, help forums or other communities. These represent a threat to you if you don't log back in to delete the account; somebody intent on stealing your identity could easily get into an old account and find information that'd you'd forgotten it contained..."
What follows is my edited version of their list of sites where people most commonly have dormant accounts, and where possible, a link to where you can delete that account: (Encrypt encourages the sharing of their tips.)

AIM/AOL: Notoriously difficult, best bet is to phone 888-265-8008 - they will ask your security question

Amazon: Login > Contact Us > Select "Close Account" from dropdown reasons, OR you can phone 1-866-216-1072 Call 1-425-917-5000, hit 1, then hit 2, then ask the representative to find and cancel your account.

eBay:, note that eBay retains all your customer information indefinitely even after you delete your account.

Facebook: - note that "deactivate your account" is NOT the same thing; you want to delete, not deactivate.


Friendster: Login > Settings > Cancel My Account

Google: Log in, go to, it will let you delete specific service accounts, or close your account across all services

Hotmail/MSN:, takes 270 days after confirmation to be deleted

iTunes: View My Account > Edit Payment Information > Remove Credit Card, and then go to to contact and request account deletion.

LinkedIn: Call 1-650-687-3600

MySpace: My Account > Account > Scroll down to bottom > Cancel Account


Ning: Requires you to contact them through

PayPal: Profile > Account Information > Close Account

Twitter: settings > Delete My Account


YouTube: Login > My Account > Account Settings > Delete Account

Your welcome.